HANCOCK COUNTY — A McCordsville family wants you to know how to properly throw away fireworks after improper disposal led to two houses in Hancock County catching on fire last night.
"Don't take safety for granted, especially with these multi-fireworks. They are made of cardboard and no matter how well you think you've put it out, it has the opportunity and ability to spark back up and cause fire,” Richard Vance said. “Use caution.”
For Vance, his wife and 5-year-old granddaughter, what started as a fun night lighting fireworks in front of the house, turned into their home catching on fire.
"It started on the south side of the house, and I tell you what, that vinyl siding might as well be gasoline and a match. Once it hit the roof it went straight across," Vance said.
He calls his neighbor, James Houser, a hero for waking them up and helping get them to safety.
"I watched this gentleman try to put the fire out himself," Vance said.
Houser's wife saw the fire through their blinds.
"I started yelling fire and knocking down the door to get their attention," Houser said.
The flames were already inside the house.
"Panic! With my 5-year-old granddaughter in the house, my wife, my dogs, my fish, panic went through my mind,” Vance said.
Vance says he hosed down the used fireworks twice within an hour before tossing them in the trash can.
"Thinking it was safe, we set it against the side of the house. Then Mr. Houser, an hour later, was at my house," Vance said.
Vance was able to save family photos and other keepsakes, but firefighters say his home is expected to be a total loss.
He's hopeful by sharing his story, people celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks will take extra precaution when throwing them away.
"Even after you've doused it with water and a fire extinguisher, don't put it in a plastic container. Put it in a metal can or out where it can't catch something else on fire. Monitor it until you're 100% sure, without a doubt that it's out," Vance said.
Houser says no matter how well you think you’ve put them out, there is always a chance of fire.
“You don’t want this to happen because it took no time for that fire to spread up the wall and all the way on top of the house. We just got lucky this time,” Houser said.
Lawrence Fire Marshal Eric Gamble says the proper way to get rid of fireworks is to soak them in a bucket of water and put them in a metal trash can, away from buildings and combustible materials.
He gives the following tips:
- Watch out for smoldering sparklers or fireworks.
- Don't allow young children to handle fireworks
- Wear eye protection
- Do not consume alcohol while lighting fireworks
- Light them one at a time
- Put them on a hard, flat part of the ground
- Don't try to relight them
"I've seen some pretty bad burns due to fireworks through my 25-years of being on the fire department. I've seen missing fingers. I just want everybody to have a safe Fourth of July. It is a great time of the year. Families can get out and enjoy some fireworks, just be careful doing them," Gamble said.